Bill and account collectors try to recover payment on overdue bills. They negotiate repayment plans with debtors and help them find solutions to make paying their overdue bills easier.

Duties

Bill and account collectors typically do the following:

  • Find consumers and businesses who have overdue bills
  • Track down consumers who have an out-of-date address by using the Internet, post office, credit bureaus, or neighbors—a process called “skip tracing”
  • Inform debtors that they have an overdue bill and try to negotiate a payment
  • Explain the terms of sale or contract with the debtor, when necessary
  • Learn the reasons for the overdue bills, which can help with the negotiations
  • Offer credit advice or refer a consumer to a debt counselor, when appropriate

Bill and account collectors generally contact debtors by phone, although sometimes they do so by mail. They use computer systems to update contact information and record past collection attempts with a particular debtor. Keeping these records can help collectors with future negotiations.

The main job of bill and account collectors is finding a solution that is acceptable to the debtor and maximizes payment to the creditor. Listening to the debtor and paying attention to his or her concerns can help the collector negotiate a solution.

After the collector and debtor agree on a repayment plan, the collector regularly checks to ensure that the debtor pays on time. If the debtor does not pay, the collector submits a statement to the creditor, who can take legal action. In extreme cases, this legal action may include taking back goods or disconnecting service.

Collectors must follow federal and state laws that govern debt collection. These laws require that collectors make sure they are talking with the debtor before announcing that the purpose of the call is to collect a debt. A collector also must give a statement, called “mini-Miranda,” which informs the account holder that they are speaking with a bill or debt collector.

Collectors usually have goals they are expected to meet. Typically, these include calls per hour and success rates.

Work Environment

Bill and account collectors held about 258,000 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of bill and account collectors were as follows:

Business support services 31%
Credit intermediation and related activities 18
Healthcare and social assistance 10
Professional, scientific, and technical services                      8
Management of companies and enterprises 6

Many collectors work in a call center for a third-party collection agency rather than the original creditor. In all industries, they spend most of their time on the phone tracking down or negotiating with debtors. They also use computers and databases to update information and record the results of their calls.

Collectors’ work can be stressful because some people become angry and confrontational when pressed about their debts. Collectors often face resistance while trying to do their job duties. Successful collectors must face regular rejection and still be ready to make the next call in a polite and positive voice. Fortunately, some consumers appreciate help in resolving their outstanding debts and can be quite grateful.

Work Schedules

Most bill and account collectors work full time. Some collectors work flexible schedules, often calling people on weekends or during the evenings as they learn the best times to call.

Education and Training

Collectors usually must have a high school diploma. A few months of on-the-job training is common.

Education

Most bill and account collectors are required to have a high school diploma, although some employers prefer applicants who have taken some college courses. Communications, accounting, and basic computer courses are examples of classes that are helpful for entering this occupation.

Training

Collectors usually receive on-the-job training after being hired. Training includes learning how to use computer software, and instruction on federal debt-collection laws (in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) and state debt-collection regulations. Collectors also may be trained in negotiation techniques.

Important Qualities

Listening skills. Collectors must pay attention to what debtors say when trying to negotiate a repayment plan. Learning the particular situation of the debtors and how they fell into debt can help collectors suggest solutions.

Negotiating skills. The main aspects of a collector’s job are reconciling the differences between two parties (the debtor and the creditor) and offering a solution that is acceptable to both parties.

Speaking skills. Collectors must be able to speak to debtors to explain their options and ensure that they fully understand what is being said.

Personality and Interests

Collectors typically have an interest in the Persuading and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Persuading or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a collector, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Collectors should also possess the following specific qualities:

Listening skills. Collectors must pay attention to what debtors say when trying to negotiate a repayment plan. Learning the particular situation of the debtors and how they fell into debt can help collectors suggest solutions.

Negotiating skills. The main aspects of a collector’s job are reconciling the differences between two parties (the debtor and the creditor) and offering a solution that is acceptable to both parties.

Speaking skills. Collectors must be able to speak to debtors to explain their choices and ensure that they fully understand what is being said.

Pay

The median annual wage for bill and account collectors was $37,000 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,800, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $56,860.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for bill and account collectors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Management of companies and enterprises $40,110
Healthcare and social assistance 38,290
Professional, scientific, and technical services                       37,960
Credit intermediation and related activities 37,470
Business support services 33,730

Most bill and account collectors work full time. Some collectors work flexible schedules, often calling people on weekends or during the evenings as they learn the best times to call.

Job Outlook

Employment of bill and account collectors is projected to decline 8 percent from 2018 to 2028.

The increasing efficiency of collectors is expected to reduce demand for this occupation. New software and automated calling systems should increase productivity and allow collectors to handle more accounts. This will allow more collections work to be done with fewer employees.

Some collection jobs will likely be sent to other countries where wages are lower, as a way for firms to cut costs. Although this will create some drag on employment of collectors, creditors should continue to hire some collectors in the United States.

Job Prospects

Workers frequently leave the occupation, which leads to numerous job openings. Therefore job prospects should be favorable, despite the projected decline in employment.

For More Information

For more information about bill and account collectors, visit

ACA International, the Association of Credit and Collections Professionals

 

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FAQ

Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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